Book Review – God’s Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre

4 stars. Some travel books inspire the desire to hop on a one-way flight to the featured destination this afternoon. This is not one of those travel books! God’s Middle Finger lets me know that the Sierra Madre is nowhere I need to visit any time soon (but I was pretty darn glad Richard Grant took his trip and chose to write about it).

The beautiful mountain country of western Mexico sounds stunning, remote, and dangerous. More dangerous by far are the petty criminals, violent offenders, and territorial hodgepodge of the narcotraficantes’ turf. Life is cheap, and murder and rape are all too often commonplace. Grant starts with a harrowing account of being chased through the woods by homicidally inclined, gun toting men near Durango, hooking me right from the beginning.

Grant writes with a descriptive eye and an obvious feeling of shared humanity for even the most wretched people he encounters (well, except for the pair entertaining themselves by doing their level best to shoot him, for which I think I can forgive him). He doesn’t miss the humorous and the ludicrous either, such as picking up a hitchhiker before going into certain areas because there’s safety in numbers, or how the drug kingpins have made the Copper Canyon area very safe for tourists (because they have too much financial stake in the money laundering opportunities presented by tourism). I also had a wry smile at the tradition of “coming down to the Sierra to get away from the law, or ‘for their health’ as [they] say here.”

God’s Middle Finger can’t really be termed a “fun” book–a rogue’s gallery perhaps?–but I certainly enjoyed its edge-of-my-seat tale (from the comfort of my own house). This was an impulse purchase from the used bookstore, and it proved to be well worth the cost and the pleasurable time spent reading Richard Grant’s puckering story.

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